If it was up to the American Roman Catholic bishops there would be no health care reform. Abortion is the problem. But the real issue is the bishops gross hypocrisy.
Bishops who live in glass houses should not throw stones. While they worry about everyone's sins but their own, the Pope shows up as a protector of child molesters, According to the New York Times:
The German archdiocese led by the future Pope Benedict XVI ignored repeated warnings in the early 1980s by a psychiatrist treating a priest accused of sexually abusing boys that he should not be allowed to work with children, the psychiatrist said Thursday.
Despite the psychiatrist's warnings, Father Hullermann was allowed to return to parish work almost immediately after his therapy began, interacting with children as well as adults. Less than five years later, he was accused of molesting other boys, and in 1986 he was convicted of sexual abuse in Bavaria.
Benedict's deputy at the time, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, said he was to blame for that personnel decision, referring to what he called "serious mistakes."
Even after his conviction in 1986, Father Hullermann, now 62, continued working with altar boys for many years. He was suspended Monday for ignoring a 2008 church order not to work with youths.
And while we're at it what about the Catholic/evangelical conspiracy to derail stem cell research?
Like many so-called mainstream American Religious Right leaders (including evangelicals and the Roman Catholic bishops) are still working around the clock even today to impose their theocratic "values" on American society.
From infiltrating and then taking over textbook editing committees (for instance in Texas) and forcing the teaching of "intelligent design" and even "creationism;"...
... to laboring to infiltrate the United States Military with hard-edged fundamentalist chaplains and officers (check out the Air Force Academy's recent history) in order to proselytize the troops and also to use the military as a base from which to evangelize the Islamic world;...
... to working to rescind reproductive rights laws (the entire pro-life movement); to imposing laws discriminating against gays and banning gay marriage (Proposition 8 in California and similar "successful" initiatives in many states often led by bid time evangelical leaders including Rick Warren);...
...to rewriting history to "prove" America was founded as a "Christian nation" (any and all evangelical school texts) to stopping scientific research on many fronts from evolutionary biology to medical research into stem cell's therapeutic uses... the Religious Right is relentless.
In addition to which the theocratic contagion is spreading from America to the rest of the world, as the effort in Uganda to impose the death penalty on gays for being gay, illustrated in 2009.
The war on pluralistic American democracy continues as I show in my books Crazy For God and Patience With God.
And this war isn't only led by those on the fringe of society. Echoing the far right Reconstructionist-inspired reaction to the election of Obama, a group of mainstream and "respectable" conservative Christian leaders signed a deceleration against stem cell research, gay marriage and reproductive rights called the Manhattan Declaration.
It urged civil disobedience against the United States Government, unless the government bowed to the signatory's "Christian values." It demanded a return to "fundamental truths" and outlined those truths as the "sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and the rights of conscience and religious liberty..." along with a demand for the ban of embryonic stem cell research.
The declaration was the brainchild of a far right Reconstructionist extremist, Roman Catholic scholar, Robert P. George. George is a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and probably the most influential Reconstructionist thinker to try to derail our democracy.
As David Kirkpatrick wrote in the New York Times,
"[Robert P. George] has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as 'one of the biggest brains in America,' or, on one broadcast, 'Superman of the Earth.' Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told me he numbers George among the most-talked-about thinkers in conservative legal circles. And Newt Gingrich called him 'an important and growing influence' on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage. 'If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy,' the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, 'its leaders probably meet in George's kitchen.' ("The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker" NYT Dec 16, 2009)
George (a polite and kindly man whom I've met several times when I've been lecturing at Princeton) is known for working behind the scenes with both Roman Catholic and evangelical groups to push the far right religious movement's social/political agenda while giving his efforts a respectable academic spin. Of course George would disavow being called a Reconstructionist. Rather he would claim he's an advocate of the so-called Natural Law school of Roman Catholic theology.
Briefly: Natural Law is a theological theory originating in Greek philosophy that was Christianized by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. It holds law is set by nature, i.e., homosexuality isn't "natural" therefore it's wrong etc., and that there should be civil penalties against what is "unnatural" and so on. Natural Law is supposedly the opposite of "positive law" (man-made law). George argues that Natural Law should be the standard secular American law follows. (He uses the Natural Law argument in the same way that "Intelligent Design" is a term used as a cover for pushing biblical creationism. It seems more respectable than simply quoting the Bible.)
Of course Natural Law is just another way to impose one group's ideology on other groups and is as arbitrary, limited and nuts as any other theory of law that claims absolute moral superiority over all other theories. It also harbors an embarrassing track record ignored by George. For instance Aquinas said that there was a Natural Law order to society: Kings, barons, knights, freemen and serfs. (Not surprisingly George's Manhattan Declaration brainchild doesn't mention the barons, knights, freemen and serfs bit of the Natural Law theory!) Natural Law can also cut to the dark side. The Marquis de Sade also believed in Natural Law. He said that anything which is possible is natural. If it is natural, then it is moral. The term "sadism" is derived from this view of natural law.
The Manhattan Declaration was signed by over 120 Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and evangelical Republican leaders eager to take a shot at our first black president. Echoing my late evangelical far right leader father's writings (without naming him) the declaration says that Christianity teaches "that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required." (Emphasis added)
The fact that so many supposedly respectable evangelical leaders signed on to an updated Natural Law/Reconstructionist manifesto is ironic. From a Protestant theological viewpoint Natural Law is anti-biblical. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God," Paul wrote in I Corinthians. According to Paul "natural men" is full of falsehood. Yet Natural Law rests on two ideas denied by the Bible: the self-sufficiency of man's mind and the capability of man to extrapolate moral understanding of right and wrong from observing the world around him. But in the Protestant view the Bible argues that these things don't enlighten man, only the direct experience of God's grace through revelation does.
Bishops! Repair your broken church and leave us alone!
On a more mundane level, in the, if-you-live-in-glass-houses-don't-throw-moralistic- stones department, it's worth noting that George is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. George-The-Moralizer, who wants to roll back Jeffersonian democracy in favor of a 13th century adaptation of Greek philosophy that's being used as a cover for imposing unreconstructed Protestant fundamentalism on our diverse country, is a member of a denomination that has consistently collaborated with anti-democratic forces of all sorts from Bloody Mary up to and including dictators like Mussolini, Franco and Hitler. (Just for the record all religious groups and secular religions alike also have a horrible and checkered past. That's not the point; the point is the hypocrisy of standing up to shake a moralizing finger in the face of the world around you when you're standing on a pile of bones.)
Meanwhile it turns out that the Pope is just one more bishop to try to hide then protect child abusers. We have nothing to learn from these people.
In the recent past George's denomination has also become the world's best organized pedophile network. Other than that, George and the American bishops and the Pope speak from the moral high ground. Yet George and company have seen fit to lecture our President and the rest of us on our "moral lapses."
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)